The Gradual by Christopher Priest:from my #shadowclarke shortlist 

The first review from my shadow Clarke shortlist is now up at the CSFF website. I thought I would begin this shadow Clarke journey with the one author I already knew: Christopher Priest. 

The Gradual returns to Priest’s Dream Archipelago (setting of The Islanders), and concerns a composer who goes on a concert tour of the islands, only to find when he returns that time has slipped away from him. The novel also takes in themes of grief and creativity; I enjoyed it very much. 

I’d also like to say a few words about the review itself. This is my first extended piece of writing on a book in some time; it has also been a few years since I’ve written as much about science fiction specifically as I will be in the months ahead. In that time, my approach to reviewing has changed: now I’m most interested in trying to capture my experience of reading a book, rather than “like/dislike + reasons” as I might have done in the past. I think this shift comes across in the tone of the review, and I’m interested to see how else it might manifest as I go through my shortlist.

My full review of The Gradual is here for you to read. 


  1. It does sound like I’d benefit from reading The Islanders first (and possibly The Affirmation though I note you say The Islanders stands alone). I do want to read more Priest, but given how much of his I’ve not read I suspect this shouldn’t be my re-entry point.

    • Hi Max, The Gradual wouldn’t actually be a bad re-entry point, and certainly a better one than The Islanders. All the Dream Archipelago books are free-standing, and in some ways it’s a different place in each. Having said all that, The Affirmation is one of my favourites and would be a great place to reacquaint yourself with Priest’s work.

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